Expose reveals Amazon review bribery

How far would some sellers go to get a lucrative five-star review on Amazon.com?

Just ask VIP Deals, by all accounts a very tiny company – its return address is a post office box. It has no website of its own. Yet in one week it had nearly 5,000 reviews in Amazon’s seller marketplace.

VIP Deals was selling a premium black leather case for the Kindle Fire for just $10, plus shipping. The list price for the case, manufactured by Vipertek, carries a list price of $59.99.

So as you might imagine, anyone who wanted a Kindle Fire case was pretty easily drawn to VIP Deals. But as a report in the New York Times shows, this might have been just a quick way for this company to get a massive profile within the seller marketplace.

The Times reports that customers who received the case noticed a slip in their package that encouraged them to write a review of VIP Deals. “In return for writing the review, we will refund your order so you will have received the product for free … We strive to earn 100 percent perfect ‘FIVE-STAR’ scores from you!”

Clearly this kind of business model is not sustainable. What likely happened was that VIP Deals wanted to gain such a strong profile on Amazon, that it could eventually start selling products at higher prices and easily gain customer trust.

It didn’t work out too well, since Amazon has removed VIP Deals’s product page.

Of course, we know that all review on Amazon or any site have to be taken with a grain of salt. Companies exist for the sole purpose of feeding positive reviews into the Web. This case, though, is a bit egregious.